Tensions are mounting as the Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill hearings continue across South Africa. The hearings, which have already taken place in North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Free State, and Gauteng, have ignited fierce debates and heightened concerns among stakeholders.
The South African Tobacco Transformation Alliance (Satta) has expressed frustration following public hearings of the tobacco bill in Gauteng last week.
Poor planning leads to absolute mayhem
According to Satta spokesperson Zacharia Motsumi, hearings in Tshwane were poorly planned resulting in dozens of people being denied the opportunity to express their rejection of the bill, and police had to be called in to control access to the venue.
“As a result, members of the public, the vast majority of them clearly opponents of the bill, were told to fill in forms expressing their opinions.
“This is not what public hearings are supposed to be like. Members of the public are entitled to express their views, and to express them verbally in public hearings such as the one held today,” he said.
Food For Mzansi has previously reported that the proposed bill aims to regulate the sale and advertising of tobacco products and electronic delivery systems like vapes. It also aims to regulate the packaging and appearance of products, calling for “plain packaging”.
Livelihoods in jeopardy
According to Motsumi, there has been a pattern of poor planning with the public hearings. He added that venue details have been released at extremely short notice, no translations have been provided of the proposed legislation, and Parliament has fallen far short of the requirements when it comes to publishing public notices informing people of the hearings.
He said people who work directly in the industry, farmers, spaza shop owners, and consumers are the most affected by the poor planning.
“Satta would have expected Parliament to have heeded repeated calls by the judiciary for public participation processes to be meaningful and genuine.
“We cannot avoid a perception, as we said in our media statement last week, that these hearings are an academic exercise, and that this process is merely ticking the public participation box, rather than giving the people of South Africa a genuine opportunity to comment on a bill which will have a fundamentally negative impact on so many lives,” Motsumi said.
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